New Zealand 49; Australia 28
Grahan Henry has labelled the match, and the victory as "scintillating", and it's hard to argue against that assessment. Robbie Deans heads for Christchurch on the verge of equalling the worst-ever losing sequence againt New Zealand for an Australian coach. Bledisloe I is over, and the All Blacks, whilst not as clinical as they were in Auckland, had the measure of the Wallabies.
The Australians came to play, as we expected they would, and that makes the All Black victory even sweeter. Sure, for half the match they were only up against 14 men (more on that later), but the All Blacks had to work hard for this victory, especially in the second half when the Wallabies attacked and attacked and attacked. But when opportunities came to counter, the All Blacks took them, and that is reflected in the seven tries to three margin.
It was a match for the loose forwards, and both loose forward trios had big games. Richie McCaw was outstanding again, and Jerome Kaino was devastating. Kieran Reid started slowly, but grew in stature as the match progressed. For the Wallabies, both Pocock and Elsom had huge games in a tremendous contest.
Once again, the All Black back three were prominent in the scoring action. Cory Jane set up a try with a deft kick and scored a beauty himself on the stroke of halftime, Mils Muliaina scored twice on his 30th birthday, and it was great to see Joe Rokocoko score as he became the All Blacks' most-capped winger. He was another to become more prominent as the match progressed.
Australia actually upped its game when Drew Mitchell was sent off for a second red card. We'll say this; Craig Joubert was absolutely correct in his decision, and in the message he gave Rocky Elsom that he (Joubert) was not responsible for the way the match went after the red card. Neither of Mitchell's offences were particularly severe, and we doubt that there'll be any further suspension, but the second yellow for preventing a quick throw-in was absolutely the right decision. Whether or not Mitchell was on the field when the general warning was issued is irrelevant; he would know as well as anyone that once you've had one yellow card, you have to tread very, very carefully.
So on to Christchurch next week. As bad timing will have it, we'll be in Melbourne! The Wallabies will be sweating on Will Genia, who was last seen sitting on the sideline with an ice-pack on his knee after a knock late in the match. It wasn't mentioned, but when we saw a replay, we saw Genia appear to twist his knee at the bottom of a ruck. The Wallabies will also be facing their third match in successive weeks, and will be down on confidence after last night's result. Away wins in the Tri-Nations have been in short supply over the last few seasons; for the All Blacks to have won away AND scored a bonus point (by half-time!) is noteworthy.
Bring it on!